Children read to canines the first and third Saturday of each month at the Scripps Miramar Ranch Library. (courtesy of Paws to Read)
Children read to furry friends
On some Saturday mornings, attendees at the Scripps Miramar Ranch Library may find that the library’s usual silence has been replaced by the sounds of young voices, perhaps articulating the words of books like Dr. Seuss’s “Go, Dog, Go!”
Let it be known, this book choice is far from random. Look a bit closer and one will find not only kids, but dogs patiently sitting by as young readers try to piece together syllables.
“Their teachers aren’t there. Their parents aren’t there. They’re just reading to the dogs who don’t correct them and aren’t judging them for their reading,” said Jennifer Shumaker, Scripps Ranch visit captain from the therapy dog organization Love on a Leash.
The program is called Paws to Read, and it’s far from new. Some frequent attendees have practically grown up beside these dogs.
“We have kids all the way from infants to as old as 12 years old who come,” Shumaker said. “We even encourage the little ones like the two and three-year-olds to just grab a book and show the dogs the pictures while they’re flipping through it.”
Lisa Thompson, a member of the Love on a Leash national board of directors, said the main goal of the program is to give the kids a non-judgmental environment to practice reading out loud. However, she said she’s seen the program fulfill all kinds of needs.
“We’ll have kids who come over the course of years who are scared of dogs when they start out in the program and, as the years roll on, they learn to love the dogs and become very comfortable with them,” Thompson said.
Sue Subkow, the leader for the San Diego Central Chapter of Love on a Leash, said attendance for the bi-monthly program varies depending on the time of year, but many families find ways to make Paws to Read a part of their normal schedules.
She said one dog that sticks out in her mind is Charlie, a rescue dog from Tijuana.
“Charlie loves laps,” Subkow said. “If you’re sitting on the floor, he will come up and cuddle on your lap even if he just met you.”
Another popular pup is Thompson’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Mable Grace. A little more than 14 pounds, the girls love her, Thompson said.
“Almost every visit I dress her up,” Thompson said. “She’s got her own walk-in closet at my house full of her clothes and costumes.”
Subkow said the program can really be made into whatever the kids are looking to get out of it, whether that’s an environment to better their reading skills or just a place to cuddle with a dog and escape the heat.
While some kids opt to stick to what the librarians have left out for them to read, Thompson said some kids really take advantage of the freedoms of the program.
“I had a little girl last Saturday who was super into the color pink, so she got every book about the color pink and read that to the dogs,” Thompson said. “She read the same book I think three or four times to the dog.”
The Scripps Miramar Ranch Library Paws to Read program takes place on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Exceptions include any holidays when the library would be closed.